Thursday, August 7, 2014

Back at it

Soooo... I've decided to commit myself to making writing a daily habit.  I've done a LOT of personal growth reading over the past year, and have come to the understanding that anything worth doing starts with creating habits that support what it is that you want to accomplish.  It also involves committing to your goals by putting in writing. I haven't quite figured out what my writing goals are yet, so for now, my plan is to carve out 15 minutes a day to spend writing.  Most of that writing will be notebook writing, and some of that will turn into a personal blog post.  I think a big part of this comes from spending time lately with a well known Canadian journalist.  Here's my plan: read and write everyday, reacquaint myself with the blogging world, write a weekly blog post, and start submitting articles both locally and online.  I've never been good at sticking with things, but it's never to late to start :)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Guilin Day 4 & 5

Longji Village and rice terraces was the final part of our Guilin adventure, and the last but not least of what has turned into a trilogy of posts. If the river cruise and bamboo rafts were an ice cream dish, then the rice terrace was the whipped cream, multi-coloured sprinkles and the cherry on top.  Getting there, however, is a whole other story.

First we drove about 2 hours with our tour bus.  We stopped once at a small convenience store to use a very rural public toilet. I could describe it, in this case seeing is believing:

Finally we stopped, but only to switch to another bus.  The mountain roads leading up the village are so treacherous that only experienced bus drivers can take tourists up to the site.  Treacherous is no exaggeration of the road conditions.  They are narrow, winding and without guardrails, and often no visual of other vehicles that might be coming around the bend.  Slow is not in the vocabulary of the drivers.  They zoom around corners with a little more than a warning horn to let others know they are coming. I am very nervous (terrified) of heights and had to close my window curtains and hold onto the seat in front of me.  With every twist and turn my stomach did a flip flop.  By the time the bus came to a stop at the parking lot, I didn't trust my legs to work, but they did.  And it is a good thing they did because we weren't there yet.

There are no roads going directly into the village, so we left the parking lot and had a 20 minute walk up a stone path to get to the village.  Some of us brought a backpack up the mountain, while those of us without backpacks hired local women to carry our luggage up the trail for us.  For 40 RMB the women carried our luggage in baskets on their backs to our guesthouse, and returned to bring them down the next day.  It was a strange feeling to have these women carry our things, and maybe a bit absurd, but there was no way I would have made it up the mountain with my luggage (and myself) in one piece otherwise.  I have some serious respect for these ladies.

All along the path were little booths selling all sorts of souvenirs. The rest of the group seemed to be in a hurry and I had to hustle to keep up.  No time for dawdling! Unfortunately, I really like to dawdle. Ergo, Hillary, Nancy and I ended up at the back of the pack on the way up. We were a bit dismayed when we came to a fork in the path and there was no one recognizable in sight. Our options were to go to our right, which brought us up more, or to the left which had less of an incline. Right or left, right or left??  We opted to go up the path on the right. The right path turned out to be the wrong choice, but luck was with us. We didn't get more than a few steps up before we could see the others down below on the left path where they had so logically stopped to wait for us just out of view.

When we arrived in Longji, it was like stepping back in time.  No cars, no street lights, and no pollution.  It was, literally, a breath of fresh air.  On a slightly off topic side note, the cell phone reception was remarkably great.  You'd never find great cell reception in the middle of nowhere Canada (which is, in effect, most of Canada). Our guide brought us to our guesthouse where our bags were already waiting for us.  We settled into our rooms and had a short rest before meeting our guide to continue the rest of the way up the mountain to see the view.

Another 20 minute climb and then there it was, sprawling in front of us - acres upon acres of winding and rolling rice fields. And there, on top of the mountain - a Chinese woman in practical stiletto heels. Amazing. I wish I'd had the foresight to take a photo.

After a few minutes and a mini photo shoot our guide asked us if we'd prefer to go back down the way we came or take the long way back.  We opted for the long way and it turned out to be the best decision we'd made all trip.  The long way entailed a long and winding walk through the rice fields. It's best to leave the photos tell the rest of the story:

Time for a beer break! 
And off we go again:

Meanwhile, back at the village:
 Chili peppers and corn was laid out to dry
Rice was unloaded from the horses

Corn hung up to dry
 Plenty of dogs to be found.
 More chili peppers!
  Chickens and roosters hanging out in the most unlikely of places.

Corn was cooked over fire in bamboo cookers.

Back at the guesthouse we had a delicious supper, a few beer and laughs before the quite early closing time.  There is no light at night other than the decorative lights on the guesthouses, so after dinner we carefully picked our way from the restaurant building to the building with our rooms.  Once there we had a few more drinks and few more laughs before turning in for the night.  One thing is certain, you learn a lot about fellow travel companions with games like "never have I ever".

The darkness, and peace and quiet made for a good night sleep. That is, it would have if it weren't for one ambitious rooster's 3 am wake up call.  At least the horses had the decency to wait until dawn to join in!

We were up and on our way early the next morning. The ladies from the day before brought our bags  back down for us and we took some time to shop as we made our way back down to where the buses were waiting.  We piled back into the bus ready (or not) for another death defying ride down the mountain roads.

Good Bye Guilin!

Check back soon for the next stop on my Asia Adventures:  Christmas in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Guilin Day 3

Between school, mandarin lessons, guitar lesson and trying to squeeze in a social life,  I've been a busy beaver, but better late than never! Here's what we did on day three:

We woke up fairly early to head out to see the Silver Caves.  That was alright, and kind of cool, but it turns out I'm not really all that inspired by caves.  It's what came next that rocked my boat - a trip down a small river on a bamboo raft.  I felt connected with the river, the mountains, and multitude of dragonflies and butterflies that would occasionally grace our boat with their presence. Consequently, I fell in love with China all over again.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, this is it. 

A little visitor                                            
We were seated two per boat, and I was fortunate enough to have my friend Hillary as my partner if only because of the hilarity that ensued.  The river was quite leisurely, but every once in a while we would come upon a little dam that we would have to pass through.  The first time was fairly entertaining, the second time again, but then came the third. Oh the third was the clincher- we got completely and utterly soaked!

The only thing we were missing was the beer.  And, sure as any place in Asia, we soon pulled up alongside a small river fishing raft with plenty of beer for sale.  After a bit of bargaining, a beer for our raft guide, there was, if possible, an even happier group of Canadians floating down the quiet yulong river on a bamboo raft.
A raft on the river like the one we stopped at for beer.

Now for a little Eye Spy: can you spot the little shelter in the distance?

It's where we were stopped to have pictures printed:

For 20 Kuai I chose a priceless picture of Hilary and I as our raft embarked down one of the little dams. She looked more like someone on a loop-the-loop roller-coaster than a tiny waterfall on a lazy river.  If only I had a scanner, I would share it here for all to see.  Since I don't - you will have to use your imagination.

What a life I've led since I last left home!

Up next: Day 4 and 5 at the Longji Rice Fields

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Guilin Day 1 & 2

During the Chinese National holiday I spent five glorious days escaping the hustle and bustle of city life in Beijing.  Along with five other teachers, I traveled to one of China's southern treasures: Guilin.  We spend one night in Guilin City, two nights in the touristy town of Yangshuo, and one night in a tiny farming village called Longji. Mountains, rivers, and rice fields as far as the eye can see.  It was a perfect vacation in Southern China.

Guilin city was more of a pit stop on our way than anything to write home about.  We arrived, were met by by our private tour guide with our private bus (yes- this is why I love traveling in asia), went up Yao mountain on a chairlift to see the view, did a bit of shopping, and went to bed.  The Yao mountain chairlift was a bit of an adventure, if only because I'm a bit afraid of heights.  The view was well worth the death grip I had on the chairlift bar.  Another noteworthy moment from Guilin was watching Tim, the only male companion in our party, bargain with an 8 year old while shopping.

Yao Mountain 

Tim pulling out his top bargaining skills 

The following morning we woke up early to catch the boat for our Li River Cruise.  The Li River is China's fourth largest river. The scenery is famous for a reason- it's breathtaking. The photos I took don't even begin to capture the magic of it.  The river winds through limestone mountains, past fisherman and their cormorants,  and past the water buffalo enjoying lazy afternoons.

The Li river is famous for the Cormorants trained for fishing. 

Illegal vendors on small bamboo rafts would pull up alongside our much larger boat, and try to sell their wares.  Our tour guide cautioned us that this is dangerous for the vendors, and he has seen many fall into the river with their rafts still attached to our boat while trying to make a sale.  They can swim- but certainly not fast enough to catch up with the boat and therefore lose their raft and goods.  

The cruise took us all the way to the town call Yangshuo, where we spent the next two nights.  To end the day we walked around Yangshuo's very touristy West Street, and took it easy.  Stay tuned- more to come!

Walking down a very busy West Steet alongside a man selling fruit

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dear Neglected Blog

I am back in Beijing after a wonderful summer at home.  I had plenty of time to spend with family and friends, and do some of my favourite summer time things. Of course, I made sure to spend plenty of time at the beach!                                

Unfortunately, I've been very busy since my return and have completely neglected doing any writing, but I'm making myself get back on the blogging bandwagonI write for myself- but I hope that anyone who comes across my little corner of the web enjoys what they find!  I'd love to hear your comments :) 

P.S. I don't know what is wrong with the formatting of this post.  It looks normal in the draft, but is posting all wrong.  Anyone know how to fix that?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Just a short note to say: home soon!

My first year in China is coming to an end in a few days and I am ecstatic to get home! The last day of school was on Friday, followed by a staff party.  Monday and Tuesday will be PD days; Wednesday I plan on packing and relaxing; Thursday I fly home! Yippee!!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tigers and dragons and rats - oh my!

Post #2 of my especially fantastic week: Dinner with Sarah Brennan

A month or so ago our school had a book fair.  Students, parents and teachers could go down to the school's gallery and choose from an assortment of English titles ranging from pictures books to novels.  It was at this book fair that I first fell in love with Sarah Brennan's Chinese Calendar tales.  I  was teeming with anticipation as I rushed over to the ATM machine so I could add books starring Temujin (teh-ma-gin) the tiger, Run Run Rat, and Chester Choi (the dragon) to my collection of children's books.  I was irrationally worried (as I am wont to be when I am excited about something) that they would be sold out by the time I was back. I couldn't wait to share them with my students.  Not once did it cross my realm of possibility that I'd soon be having dinner with the author of these unique and clever children's books.  

The day I heard Sarah Brennan was coming to our school I was flabbergasted.  I knew this would be a wonderful experience for my students (and for me as well).  While we waited I made sure to read The Tale of Chester Choi (my personal favourite) and Run Run Rat (a close second).  I never got around to reading The Tale of Temujin for them, which worked out to be the best because that is the very story that Sarah Brennan was going to read for us. 

Brennan spent two days at our school reading to the grades 1 to 5 classes.  My grade four class and I had 40 minutes all to ourselves and we enjoyed a very animated reading of The Tale of Temujin. Don't tell my students, but we also learned a lot of history about Genghis Khan for whom Temujin's character is based on.  During the reading my students listened attentively and laughed aloud with glowing faces.  I love my school, I love my students and I love teaching, but to do what Sarah Brennan does is  a job straight from my dreams.  

Then, near the end of the first day, I checked my email to find an invitation from the principal to have dinner with Brennan and a few other teachers.  I was on top of the world to be invited and replied that I would love to go.  

Dinner was at the nearby Kempinski hotel and on the school.  It was early (4:30) so the place was empty, but the food was delicious.  Even better was the company.  Sarah was down to earth, hilarious and full of stories to tell.   I ate up every word! I'd love to do what she does.  Maybe someday :)